BLUEFIELD (WVVA) - As of 8am Thursday morning, Hurricane Irene was still classified a Category 3 storm with sustained winds at 115mph and gusts up to 138mph.
Hurricane Watches have been issued for the North Carolina coast from Surf City, NC to the NC/VA border. A Tropical Storm Watch has been issued from Edisto Beach, SC to south of Surf City (including Wilmington, NC). Conditions are expected to deteriorate late Friday through Saturday and forecast models track the center of the storm very close to the Outer Banks, if not directly over it.
Irene is forecasted to continue north with the eye getting very close to the NJ, VA, & DE coastline through Sunday morning. By Sunday evening, the storm has a chance to move over Long Island and into New England. Millions of people along the I-95 corridor are on high alert with the potential for heavy rain & strong winds, which would bring the potential for widespread power outages and flash flooding.
Because this storm is so far east, we won't feel much from it. There will likely be some patchy clouds Saturday in the 2 Virginias and a small chance for showers. Eastern counties may get a few weak wind gusts as well.
Here are some things to remember when looking at hurricane maps:
When it comes to tropical systems, the track is critical for many reasons. Obviously the track will determine who gets hit with the storm, but it also may determine if it weakens or strengthens, how fast it travels, how big the storm surge can get, etc.
The National Hurricane Center will issue public statements on direction, speed, strength, and forecasted track of a storm a few times a day. Irene will get a lot of attention for two reasons: 1. It's the first hurricane of the season 2. The forecasted track shows a US landfall. When you look at a map of this track, you will notice a few things:
A red, spinning circle: this is the eye of the storm. Filled in red shows a hurricane and the number indicates the category, and empty in the middle shows a tropical storm.
A 'fan' or bubble extending outward from the center of the storm: this shows the forecast track, which allows for error. You will notice the fan gets wider the farther out it goes. This is because the forecast grows more uncertain with time.
A line running down the center of the fan: this shows the most likely track of the storm.
There will also be a list of current information-like central pressure (good rule of thumb is the lower the pressure, the stronger the storm), central sustained wind speed (this is measured at the eye wall-where the strongest winds are. Winds weaken as you move away from the eye), and storm direction and speed.
For more current info visit the National Hurricane Center at: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/index.shtml?